France has advised that French citizens and companies should temporarily leave Pakistan due to serious threats on French interests in the country, said a diplomatic source on Thursday, after violent clashes in the country this week.
Thousands of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters had clashed with police earlier this week in protest against the arrest of their leader ahead of rallies denouncing French cartoons.
The diplomatic source added on Thursday that a message had been sent overnight to French citizens and companies following a threat by the hardline group to target French interests.
Protests erupted in multiple cities across Pakistan after authorities detained Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Saad Hussain Rizvi in Lahore on Monday.
According to a TLP spokesperson, Rizvi was arrested from Punjab capital’s Iqbal Town area, where he had gone to attend a funeral.
Saad Rizvi is the son of the firebrand cleric, and previous head of the TLP, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who died in November last year.
Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of protesters who blocked streets and intersections in Lahore and in other parts of the country.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday that the TLP would not be allowed to create unrest under the guise of staging a protest.
“The government was constantly negotiating with them [TLP] but they were preparing for a protest,” he had observed while chairing the federal cabinet meeting.
The TLP had been demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over the publication of blasphemous caricatures. In November last year, the party staged a sit-in in Rawalpindi, which ended after an agreement with the government.
The party announced on November 17 that the government had accepted all its four demands. The TLP had released a copy of the handwritten agreement, carrying signatures of Qadri, then interior minister Ijaz Shah and the deputy commissioner, Islamabad.
The agreement had stated that the government would take a decision from the parliament regarding the expulsion of the French ambassador within three months, will not appoint its ambassador to France and release all the arrested workers of the TLP.